COUNTYWIDE : A History Lesson That Comes Alive


Children growing up with CDs and multimedia computers are learning what life was like around the turn of the century--when records played on Victrola Talking Machines and telephones had cranks--during interactive tours at the Discovery Museum of Orange County.

The museum is offering children’s summer camp programs for the first time.

“A lot of kids this age haven’t even seen a record,” said educational director Janet Yamaguchi as a group of elementary school children explored the museum’s Kellogg House, built in 1898. Inside this antique-filled Victorian home, the children listened to one of the earliest records that was played on a hand-cranked phonograph.

The idea, Yamaguchi said, is to make learning about Orange County’s history a fun experience. Instead of just looking at clothing from the Victorian period, visitors get to try on costumes. And instead of just hearing about how a butter churn works, they get to make butter.


One of the hands-on activities is creating “tussie mussies” out of herbs and flowers. These fragrant hand bouquets helped disguise the body odor of people from the Victorian era, who believed that frequent bathing sapped their strength, according to Jan Young, the museum’s development and marketing director.

“They were very smelly people,” Young said with a laugh.

Other museum activities include playing with antique wooden toys, looking through a stereoscopic viewer, and making “music” on a pump organ.

“We had a lot of fun in there,” said Cynthia Cummer, a 10-year-old from Huntington Beach who especially liked trying on the old clothes. “They had to wear all those tight things,” she said.

Lea Evans, 8, from Huntington Beach, seemed impressed with how hard children worked back then. “They learned how to sew and cook when they were 3 years old,” she said.

“The funnest thing I had was putting the dresses on,” said Darci Pennington, 6, of Huntington Beach. “I would like to have been a little girl back then.”

Founded in 1981, the nonprofit Discovery Museum is on an 11-acre site leased from the Santa Ana Unified School District. The Kellogg House is the museum’s centerpiece, but other attractions include a gazebo, a citrus orchard, a rose garden and a barnyard area with chickens, rabbits and doves. There’s also a thriving vegetable garden. planted by kindergartners and first-graders.


The public is invited on docent-led tours Wednesday through Friday afternoons, and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays. And the museum’s Victorian Tea Society has a series of formal teas in the Kellogg House.

The Discovery Museum is at 3101 W. Harvard St. in Santa Ana. Information: (714) 540-0404.